The economist Roger Bootle insists his new book, “The Trouble With Europe“, is “not motivated by any sort of animus against Europe” and that it’s not an artefact of standard-issue euroscepticism. But Bootle does argue in it that “the EU is a malfunctioning construct for today’s world—and even more so for tomorrow’s. It needs either to undergo fundamental reform or to break up.”
As we approach the elections for the European Parliament, I thought it’d be a good time to talk to Bootle about why he thinks the European Union isn’t working and whether Britain would be better off outside it.
JD: As you take pains at the beginning of the book to make clear, this is not straightforwardly a eurosceptic book—at least not in the familiar, accepted sense. But you are sceptical about the future of the European project as currently constituted aren’t you?
RB: If you ask me, “Would the world have been a better place if the European Union had not been there?”, I think I would say, “No, it would not be a better place.” And that’s very different from what most eurosceptics would say, I think.
You write that the European Union, in its current form, stands between Europe and “success”. What counts as “success” here?
I was thinking at that point in the book primarily about economics, but in the end, of course, there are close connections between the economics and the politics. One of the reasons I would like to see Europe, in a broad sense, economically successful is that I think thereby it would be a greater influence in the world. But what’s happened more recently is that Europe’s influence has diminished quite strongly. It is utterly dependent in a number of ways on the United States. It has adopted a supine attitude on foreign policy issues and, as things currently stand, it looks as if it won’t fare any better against East Asia over the next twenty years.